Government calls in Board of Inquiry for Auckland’s water bid


Watercare want an extra 200 million litres a day from the Waikato River as part of a 2013 resource consent application.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

Watercare want an extra 200 million litres a day from the Waikato River as part of a 2013 resource consent application.

Environment Minister David Parker has stepped in to the Auckland water stoush, referring the council’s bid for more Waikato River water to a Board of Inquiry, as Hamilton chips in with an offer of some of its water.

Auckland council want to progress a 2013 consent application, which would take an extra 200 million litres of water a day (MLD) from the river.

Parker said the Board of Inquiry, consisting of three people and led by a current or retired Environment Court judge, would consider the application.

“The future sources of drinking water for Auckland are a matter of national significance,” Parker said in a statement.

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A dead Pied Shag’s final resting place on the parched and dry banks of the Lower Nihotupu Dam in Parau. "The future sources of drinking water for Auckland are a matter of national significance", David Parker said.

David White/Stuff

A dead Pied Shag’s final resting place on the parched and dry banks of the Lower Nihotupu Dam in Parau. “The future sources of drinking water for Auckland are a matter of national significance”, David Parker said.

“The application obviously affects Auckland, but also other activities in the Waikato and the river itself.

“The inquiry will need to consider the viability of alternatives, including the treatment of storm or waste water.

“Water taken for Auckland from the Waikato already includes treated water from outfalls from storm water and treated waste water upstream of its take.

“I have asked the Waikato River Authority to name an appointee to the Board of Inquiry, which it is entitled to do under section 29(5) of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010.”

The Minister’s decision to “call-in” Auckland’s application comes following lobbying in March and April by mayor Phil Goff, and is a separate process to the council’s fast-track bid under Covid-19 recovery legislation.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff told Stuff he would be attending an urgent water summit tomorrow involving Waikato Regional Council, the Waikato River Authority, Watercare and Environment Minister David Parker.

“As I’ve said to everyone, when you have waited 7 years to get 106th in line, it is time to be heard.”

Goff said two fast-track processes were open to him: the Board of Inquiry process, as well as a possibility an amendment will be raised in parliament when the Covid-19 legislation is debated.

“I want to use the fact that both are there, to help get common ground and agreement.”

He did not believe he would meet a hostile reception in Hamilton tomorrow.

Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne welcomed a Board of Inquiry.

“It allows the Board to objectively test whether Watercare actually need that allocation of water,” Payne said.

Waikato Regional Council, Waikato River Authority and Waikato-Tainui have voiced opposition to Auckland’s bid for an extra 200 MLD.

Waikato River Authority co-chair Roger Pikia told Stuff today the application would “devastate development” in Waikato.

Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council has pushed through a draft agreement to provide Watercare with an extra 25 MLD of water.

The agreement means Watercare will cease taking 15 MLD as part of emergency consent provisions.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the deal supports the urgent needs facing Auckland right now.

“This is a critical time for Auckland which is facing dire economic and social impacts unless this is sorted.

“Watercare asked us for assistance in May and we have done a huge amount of work since then to provide that help,” Southgate said.